Lakers have 'feisty' practice
After a disappointing Christmas Day loss to the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant vowed to "kick some [butt] during practice" in an effort to urge his teammates to start treating the regular season with more urgency.
Coach Phil Jackson didn't notice anything particularly noteworthy about Bryant's demeanor, but still described the workout as "feisty".
"They all got feisty with each other," said Jackson. "That's good. They were competitive. We had a good practice.
"We just had a competitive practice. The second unit bet the first unit out there, which is always kinda fun. That makes it real interesting."
Ron Artest, sporting a small cut under his right eye, said he didn't notice a particular feistiness on the afternoon, but felt the team was "focused, locked in and ready to go hard."
Bryant vented after Saturday's loss about games meaning "more to our opponents than to us," an attitude he vowed to change. Asked about Bryant's comments regarding a lack of urgency, Jackson alluded to "distractions" permeating among the team.
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"Yeah, I can't put my finger on it, but there's been some distractions," Jackson said. "We have a new group of guys, so there's some things different. I think everybody kinda wants to win, and that's not the same as doing it.
"We think that these guys are veterans and should be able to handle that. Come back and get it straight and get it organized."
Jackson, no fan of playing on Christmas, also noted how playing on the holiday is a "distraction" due to family obligations coinciding with the game. Asked about the game not being prioritized enough among teammates, Lamar Odom said he and Bryant hadn't discussed the matter, but felt the public reminder wasn't necessary.
"I think everybody is on the same page," said Odom. "We don't need shoutouts in the media. We know our jobs. This is a team that's been to the Finals three [years] in a row. We know what big games are and games everybody looks forward to."
Told Bryant was referring to the non-marquee matchups, Odom said the right things.
"They're all big," he said. "At the end of the day, you want to go 82-0. If you've got the will to win. We all do."
For his part, Artest -- who's been extremely busy these days with his charitable efforts towards mental health issues -- grew somewhat defensive when he felt it was being inferred he was among those distracted.
"You gotta pay attention to the whole surroundings," said Artest. "I work extremely hard on the defensive end and I'm the last one to leave everyday. The game is extremely important, you know?"
He also reiterated how seriously criticism from the likes of Bryant or Derek Fisher gets taken in.
"You listen to their concerns," affirmed Artest. "You try to execute what they want to execute. Obviously, they have five rings apiece and that's what everybody dreams for, shoots for. So you listen to those guys and take into consideration that these guys know what they're talking about."
A spirited practice was a hopeful antidote to Bryant's unhappiness, but as Jackson noted, there are practical considerations as well. The Lakers head to San Antonio for a Tuesday game against a Spurs team currently boasting the league's best record.
"We tried to cover some things we anticipate San Antonio is going to [do], [who are] right now the best club in the NBA," explained Jackson. "We faced one that was pretty good the other day and now we have to face one of the better ones on their floor."
Andy Kamenetzky covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.